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Lessons for Leaning Toward Sustainable Living

A reflection on Brookline's Climate Week

Brookline Climate Week was a great success. Highlights included the first-ever “” Meghna Chakrabarti from WBUR moderated a spirited discussion with Brookline residents and Rob Garrity from Mass Climate Action Network, Kevin Knobloch from Union of Concerned Scientists and Alan Khazei, a Brookline resident and author of “Big Citizenship.” If you missed it, perhaps you can catch it on BATV sometime. Also, be sure to see the video that pays tribute to local “climate heroes” created by Ian Brownell and Brookline resident Maria O’Meara. It is funny and uplifting, and you will be impressed with the local and global solutions to climate change brought about by fellow citizens. There were classes and workshops occurring all over town. A friend attended the vermiculture lecture at Brookline Adult and Community Education and brought home worms. They are living in a box in her basement composting her trash 24/7.

The last event was a book reading at Brookline Booksmith of the newly published anthology, “Hope Beneath Our Feet. Restoring Our Place in the Natural World.” The editor, Martin Keogh was there with Vivienne Simon, one of the contributors. Their message was to start to live a more sustainable life where you are, with what you love. Small is OK, just start “leaning” in a sustainable direction. Martin and Vivienne read pieces from several contributor to the anthology, including Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver  and Munju Ravindra, with some thoughts about what how we might go forward as a community in 2011.

Michael Pollan wrote that “ …the climate change crisis is at its very bottom a crisis of lifestyle, the sum total of countless little everyday choices.” The typical American household generates 55,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. The average German household contributes only 27,000 pounds and the typical Swedish household only 15,000 pounds. This suggests that we could make lifestyle changes, reduce our carbon footprint, and maintain a good standard of living. If you are interested in knowing your carbon footprint, there is a carbon meter on Climate Change Action Brookline website with suggestions on how to trim it.

“It’s the worst of bad manners and self protection, I think, in a nervously cynical society-to ridicule the small gesture,” Barbara Kingsolver wrote in her piece. “Small stepwise changes in personal habits aren’t trivial, Ultimately they will, or won’t add up to having been the thing that mattered.”

Finally, Munju Ravindra offers up advice on finding practices that keep us “leaning” towards a more sustainable world. “Spend the day with a mystic, lunatic or writer. Or, for that matter, a child…these people have their heads screwed on sideways and hobble around gobsmacked by the beauty and despair of the world. If you opt to spend the day with a child, try to find a small one…but really any child will work, if you actually pay attention to what they have to show you.”

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